Panel Completes Review Of Officers' Actions During Fatal
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 23, 2006
DES PLAINES, ILLINOIS--The Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month that the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force has completed its investigation into the restraint-related death of Hansel Cunningham, who died on November 20 after being held down by Des Plaines police in his back yard.
State Police spokesperson Lt. Lincoln Hampton told the Tribune on August 7 that the panel has filed its final report with the Cook County state's attorney's office. Hampton declined to answer questions about the conclusions of the panel, which was to determine whether the actions of the three officers were justified. Also refusing to comment was a spokesperson with the state's attorney's office, which will decide whether the officers will face criminal charges.
The Cook County medical examiner's office ruled Cunningham's death a homicide after determining that the 30-year-old suffocated when the officers held him facedown for at least four minutes.
Cunningham, who had autism and used sign language to communicate, lived at a group home with several men that have developmental disabilities. Police and an ambulance were called to the home after Cunningham bit a staff member who had tried to block him from entering the kitchen.
Police tried to arrest and handcuff Cunningham, but he resisted their attempts and ran into the back yard. Officers followed and tried to subdue the 5-foot-7 inch, 140-pound man by shocking with a 50,000-volt Taser stun gun, spraying him with pepper spray, and tackling him to the ground.
Once officers handcuffed Cunningham, ambulance workers injected him with a sedative. They soon noticed that he was having trouble breathing, but could not revive him.
The medical examiner later determined that the Taser did not contribute to Cunningham's death, nor did the sedative, perhaps because it was injected after he was already dead.
"Cops complete probe of autistic man's death" (Chicago Tribune)
"Hansel Cunningham Dies After Struggle With Police" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)